Since April 2020, in the depths of lockdown, I have been drawing birds on request, and drawings became prints. To promote them, I began to "gently reference" the birds I'd drawn in a series of "fashion" spreads. These humorous and light-hearted shoots used my own wardrobe and makeup skills and became an intrinsic component of a project that has become known as Birds Can Fly.
As soon as the lockdown in the UK was announced and in the face of cancellations and delays of most of my forthcoming work, I was bereft of motivation. I felt I had to reconsider my function as an artist during a global pandemic. Housebound and feeling emotionally blank and overwhelmed, I began to consider what work would be relevant to a changed world.
As I sat in my apartment overlooking a clearer, quieter London skyline, I noticed the birds more than ever and my passion for ornithology re-emerged. I began drawing the birds I could see from my window. Comforted by the process, I asked my social media followers if there was a bird they’d like me to draw. I expected a little flutter of interest.
What emerged was a wide variety of requests for bird drawings. Requests were often accompanied by an anecdote explaining their choice. I began drawing a bird for my followers most days and now have a disparate collection of ornithological favorites, drawn in pen and colored in Photoshop, creating an online network of bird lovers, sharing stories of the birds they love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. My intention was to punctuate timelines with an alternative to the growing horrors of the pandemic.
Stories of a consoling interest in bird watching during this crisis, reflected in the messages of support and encouragement I received during lockdown. As the collection grew, I began to promote prints I'd made of the drawings by "gently referencing" the birds I'd drawn in #lockdown, mostly using my existing wardrobe and my makeup skills to echo the plumage of this collection of birds from around the world. What began as a tool for promotion has become a key element of this body of work that I've called Birds Can Fly.